The Carolina Panthers picked up a much needed 28-16 win against the San Diego Chargers. Here is The Dance, The Sulk, and The Walk Off.
Turnovers: If you force five turnovers, chances are you’re going to win the game. The Panthers defense ate Philip Rivers alive on Sunday. Five sacks, three interceptions, two forced fumbles, and a safety. Rivers never got into a rhythm, and when it looked like he would, the Panthers defense were able to force a turnover. Turnovers have been an issue all year. The defense hasn’t forced them like they did last year and the offense isn’t protecting the ball the way they did last year. But for one game, things looked a lot like they did last year, at least on defense.
Michael Palardy: The defense is the reason why the Panthers won, and I’d love to single out every single player on defense because they deserve it. Instead, I’m going to give Palardy credit because the punter has been the MVP for Carolina this year. The Panthers tried out a few veteran punters in training camp, traded a fourth round pick for a punter, and it turns out that a 2014 undrafted rookie would be the guy booting the ball. And doing it well, mind you.
Cam Newton: I don’t know what has happened to the league MVP this year, but he just hasn’t looked like the league MVP. His decision making isn’t good, his passes are off, and he just looks miserable. I’m sure the losses have gotten to him, he’s never been the best loser, and taking a beating the way he has this year can’t be fun. But this just doesn’t look like the same guy who turned in a near flawless offensive performance last year. Whether it’s lack of confidence in his offensive line or not being on the same page with his receivers, Cam’s step back this year has definitely been an issue.
Jonathan Stewart: That contract, all the injuries, all the miles on his body. Things might be bleak for Stewart in Carolina. I hope I’m wrong, because very few guys in the league run as hard as Stewart, and it would be tough for anyone to run behind this makeshift offensive line, but I bet David Gettleman will think long and hard about what to do with Stewart in the offseason.
QB Rankings: The QB position is as strong as it’s ever been
Power Rankings:: The Cowboys remain king
Week 14 Picks:: Who’s going to nab a big win this weekend?
The Walk Off
Kelvin Benjamin: I won’t rip his effort on that non-interception, but Kelvin just hasn’t been the guy we thought he would be this year. Cam went from seemingly forcing the ball to him against Denver and San Francisco, to Kelvin being invisible for the majority of the season. We know he can still make big and tough catches, but a #1 receiver can’t be as ineffective as he’s been for a lot of this year. In fairness to him, he’s coming off an ACL injury. It takes most guys not named Adrian Peterson at least a year to fully recover, and the entire offense has been a mess this year. I just hope Benjamin and Cam are able to get on the same page in these last three weeks.
*It’s weird that the Panthers lead the league in sacks after failing to get so little quarterback pressure to start the season. I still believe that they need a defensive end in the offseason.
*Does Tre Boston do anything well? Speaking of need, the Panthers really need strong safety so they can move Kurt Coleman back to free safety.
*Daryl Worley and James Bradberry are going to be a fun duo for the next few years. Fun for Panthers fans, really tough for opponents.
*Credit to Devin Funchess for returning after that hit. Not only returning, but snaring a Newton bullet for a touchdown. Funchess has been disappointing this year, but again, so has the entire offense.
*Greg Olsen is going to need a lot of yards (180 to be exact) in the final three weeks to get over 1,000 for the season. Going to be a lot tougher than people think.